Many people are determined to lose weight in the new year. This makes them vulnerable to false claims about products that can be at best a waste of money and at worst dangerous.
There is no “secret ingredient”, “unprecedented formula” or “ancient remedy” that will help you lose weight quickly without changing your lifestyle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says losing weight is not easy and requires commitment. People who lose weight gradually and steadily (about 1 to 2 pounds per week) are more successful at keeping it off.
The FTC and the FDA have reached out to companies making false weight loss claims about nutritional supplements, body wraps, skin patches, and other products. There are even ads online for magnetic rings (earrings, toe rings, etc.) that are supposed to help you lose weight. I haven’t seen any regulatory actions regarding them, but I’ve found reports from experts who say they don’t work.
In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled allegations against a company that claimed that “detox teas” could help people lose weight. It promoted other teas that are effective in fighting cancer, clearing clogged arteries, relieving migraines, and preventing the flu.
Another company claimed that users of its product can “lose up to 15 pounds in the first month…without diet or changing your food choices or lifestyle” and “without adding any exercise.” The satisfied users portrayed in the commercials were actually actors.
The FDA says there is a growing problem with over-the-counter products, especially weight loss-touted supplements, that contain hidden active ingredients that could be harmful. Some ingredients may be approved for use in prescription medications, some are controlled substances, and some are not tested or studied. The FDA warns against the use of products such as Miss Slim, Tummy Tuck Max, and Genesis Ultra Slim Gold. One of its ingredients is sibutramine, a controlled substance that was removed from the market in 2010 for safety reasons. May present a significant risk for people with a history of coronary artery disease, stroke, and other diseases; It may adversely interact with other medications.
The FDA says it cannot test all products and that its enforcement actions and consumer guidelines cover only a small portion of the contaminated over-the-counter products on the market.
In enforcement proceedings, the Federal Trade Commission has noted these deceptive tactics used to promote weight loss products:
- Hiring well-known Instagram influencers to endorse products without revealing that they got paid to do so.
- Using fake websites and news reports to promote fake products.
- Include pictures of doctors in ads to make them more believable.
Several people complained to the FTC and BBB that after agreeing to their free trial offer, they continued to receive monthly shipments of the product that was too difficult to cancel. Marketers also did not honor “money-back” guarantees.
The BBB offers these tips to avoid weight loss tricks:
- Be wary of advertisements and testimonials that promise miraculous results.
- Avoid products that claim to help you lose weight without dieting or exercising.
- Check the ingredients with the FDA. Be careful if there is no ingredient list.
- Be wary of free trial offers that may cause you to receive frequent shipments of products you don’t want.
- Check the company with the BBB, the company and the product online.
- Do not assume that the product is legitimate because it is sold by a reputable retailer.
Randy Hutchinson is president of the Mid-South Better Business Bureau. Reach the BBB at 800-222-8754.